Email and Web Browser Privacy
Every day, millions of email messages are used to communicate with friends and conduct business. Email is a convenient way to communicate with each other quickly. When you send an email, it is similar to sending a message using a postcard. The postcard message is transmitted in plain sight of anyone who has access to look, and the email message is transmitted in plain text, and is readable by anyone who has access. These communications are also passed among different servers while in route to the destination. Even when you erase your email messages, the messages can be archived on the mail servers for some time.
Anyone with physical access to your computer, or your router, can view which websites you have visited using web browser history, cache, and possibly log files. This problem can be minimized by enabling the in-private browsing mode on the web browser. Most of the popular web browsers have their own name for private browser mode:
- Microsoft Internet Explorer: InPrivate
- Google Chrome: Incognito
- Mozilla Firefox: Private tab / private window
- Safari: Private: Private browsing
With private mode enabled, cookies are disabled, and temporary Internet files and browsing history are removed after closing the window or program.
Keeping your Internet browsing history private may prevent others from gathering information about your online activities and enticing you to buy something with targeted ads. Even with private browsing enabled and cookies disabled, companies are developing different ways of fingerprinting users in order to gather information and track user behavior. For example, the intermediary devices, such as routers, can have information about a user’s web surfing history.
Ultimately, it is your responsibility to safeguard your data, your identity, and your computing devices. When you send an email, should you include your medical records? The next time you browse the Internet, is your transmission secure? Just a few simple precautions may save you problems later.